By Mark Shortt
Advantage Prototype Systems (APS), a family owned rapid prototyping service bureau in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, helps engineers, product developers, and artists realize their designs faster while making sound decisions regarding their development of new products. The company provides them with high quality 3D printed parts and prototype models that offer a first look at a physical representation of their concepts. In one example, APS produced a series of clear model transmissions for an ice drill manufacturer to display at trade shows, allowing sales reps to show off the inner workings of their product.
Primary processes used by APS include Stereolithography (SLA), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), urethane casting, painting, and vacuum metalizing.
“Our core business is using Stereolithography to produce quick-turn 3D printed models to aid product developers and engineers in decision making during new product development,” wrote David Telindert, rapid prototyping lab manager at Advantage Prototype Systems, in an emailed response to D2P. “Additionally, we specialize in clear SLA parts, custom finishing, and model making.”
The parts produced by APS are used for design studies, design validation, patterns for urethane and metal casting, and testing of form, fit, and function. They’re also used for flow testing, evaluation of ergonomics, and as trade show cut-away models. Advantage Prototype Systems serves customers in industries like automotive and consumer products, and prides itself on “delivering quality, one-of-a-kind parts inside deadlines and working to exceed expectations on every project, no matter how large or small.”
Telindert said the company has an SLA part cleanup team with extensive experience in handling models with fine design lines and features, which can easily be overlooked.
“Creating clear SLA models has become one of our specialties, which is great for fluid testing, making clear housings to determine internal wire routing, and simulating polycarbonate lenses,” he wrote.
Advantage Prototype Systems (www.advproto.com) started in the spring of 1995, when three entrepreneurs began using a 3D Systems SLA-250 machine in the basement of a local sandwich shop. Two years later, the company moved operations to a 4,000-square-foot facility, where it added two SLA 500 machines and injection molding capabilities. The company moved again in 2014 as it added four more molding machines, along with new rapid prototyping equipment.
“A number of our staff have a history with injection molding design, which is super useful when a new client is just getting started with product design,” said Telindert. “We also recently added a 3D Systems SLA iPro 8000, with a build envelope of 25 by 29 by 21 inches, to allow us to make larger parts as a single piece, faster and more accurately.”
For one customer that uses high-speed packaging machines, APS combined an SLA pattern with composite resin casting to produce a half-dozen custom parts. Because the complex geometry of the parts made them very expensive to machine, the client had previously been making them from fiberglass. However, this yielded inconsistencies in a large number of the parts, requiring them to be finished and shaped later on. The parts needed to be straight and somewhat flexible in case the packaging equipment jammed, Telindert said.
“Keeping the parts straight was the biggest challenge, as the geometry of the part naturally wants to twist. We overcame the twist by embedding carbon fiber rod stock inside of the resin casting. The process we came up with produces better performing parts with consistent results, at half the price of the original,” Telindert said.